The day of my graduation ceremony I jumped on a plane and headed west to Cali. I had my toes in the ocean, hiked the high desert, visited the Deep Creek Hot Springs, and never stopped smiling once. We went up to Lake Arrowhead for the first time and enjoyed the mountains, green, and the lake. It was great to drink beer again! That ranks highly in my favorites from that trip. I saw some of the prettiest sunflowers growing freely along the highways out there and spent time with the people I love most in the place that I love most. My burns started healing nicely out there but I did have a decent amount of pain and swelling. My doctor explained that this was most likely from my sudden spike in activity. Oops :)
Reality was waiting for my when I returned back to Chicago though. California provided a chance to smile and feel normal after weeks of doctors. Instead of allowing time to heal, I dove right into work. There are about 6 weeks left of the school year so it was sort of a now or never opportunity. So I picked now. My kids did so much for me this past year, I really wanted to repay them and thank them by showing up. So there I was, the Tuesday after spring break, sitting in the parking lot from 7:30-9am sobbing my face off, terrified to walk in. The idea of working when you're just trying to put one foot in front of the other is pretty overwhelming. It made me feel like I have to act like the past year never happened and to get on with life. The trouble with that is I spent the last year plowing through, buried my head and just moved forward. I didn't spend much time crying, what was important to me was just getting through. Survive now, process later. Well guess what.. I survived! And now, my mind wants to process and deal and make sense of what this whole experience has been. How do I find time to do that? Well really I have to make time. I've been rereading old blog posts and my journal. I had completely blocked out all those sleepless nights during chemo and the experiences I had then. I had a long, long, long relationship and friendship fall apart during this and spent such little time being upset over it. It was more important to me live and I knew I wouldn't, I showed I couldn't, if I was experiencing negative emotions. There are so many things that have happened, good and bad, over the past year and my brain is ready to dump them all out and investigate.
The past year has been a year of deep pain. It was long. There were many times that my light grew dim and almost flickered out. But I am fortunate because above everything, the past year has been a year of love. True love. I met love face to face and was carried through on the backs of many to get through and be on my way out of it. I think of this quote often when I think of you all and the love you showed me:
"At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have rekindled the flame within us."
Many times my light wanted to go out but couldn't because of the outpour of love that fell on me. The Skinner family is one in particular that I think of when I read this quote. Honey has picked me up numerous times. Big Sam understood everything firsthand, which is a comfort like no other. And Will and Sam were also ready with smiles and laughs for me. I thank God every day for the Skinner family and how they saved my life. My own family did indescribable things, putting their lives on pause and making me their sole focus. All without hesitation of course, because this is what my family does. I think of my dear cousin Kiah, for all the work she did covering for me all summer and was ready to step up and in for anything. Nela saw me cry 1000 times and stuck by me like nothing else mattered but making sure I felt ok again. Anna gathered her swimming friends and the whole NTSC community to surround me with love and support. GA was flexible and understanding with me and best of all, provided an escape to feel normal and laugh and be gross and offensive. I had so many people pick me up when I was down and never let me fall too far. From Jeff in Finland to Annie in CDM, Emma in Poland to Marilyn at the pond. So many rekindled my flame.
Where am I at now? Processing with some force. I have to make time for this, which is annoying but what my schedule calls for. It's just as important as exercising (need to make time for that too....). I survived my first week of teaching. My goal is to make it through without crying next week. Oh which reminds me of my title. I feel like the mayor of crazy town. Since I started hormone therapy, a pill I'll take daily for the next 5-10 years to keep the estrogen out (the cancer was caused by estrogen), my moods have... fluctuated. With the help of other meds my emotions are kept in check, so when tears do fall it has to be a pretty damn big feeling. Which is an indication of just how overwhelmed I feel. The meds also make me nauseous and have brought back ridiculous hot flashes. I really enjoyed the 2-3 months I had without them. But they are back in full force, keeping me up at night. My poor kids have learned to dress in layers because my classroom is an ice box. Thankfully Baker is full of genuinely wonderful people who truly love me. They have let me cry, take breaks when needed, and have provided me with people that I feel safe with to run to when I'm not feeling brave. And there are places nearby with cold beers when the workday is over. Adjustments are hard. But once again, I am shown nothing but love.
I'm working on healing. I'm working on getting enough rest and taking care of myself. My body, heart, and mind were dragged through hell over the last 50 weeks. I realize now that it's not over. There are still treatments to be done and tough times to be had. I am thankful that the love hasn't stopped. I couldn't do it without you.
I realize that I could have been pulled right off this Earth. Things didn't have to turn out the way they did. I don't want to take that for granted. Just trying to figure out what I can do with it.
Hope to have a tear free week to report to you guys next week!
Enjoy the sunshine :)